By Stan Welch
A small crowd gathered at the Powdersville Library Tuesday night to hear the latest plans for the Dolly Cooper Park.
Matt Shell, Anderson County’s recreation director, explained that the immediate plans for use of the park is shifting away from ball fields and soccer fields and towards expanded use of the river. “The river and the opportunities it offers are going to carry this park for a good while,” said Shell.
The plans presented by Shell includes two access points to allow kayak and canoe access to the river, as well as a walking trail that would comply with the requirements of the American Disabilities Act (ADA). That trail would be about a third of a mile long and would be a hard surface, accessible to wheel chairs.
A key feature of the plan is a floating kayak launch that will be the first in the state. It will allow launching in as little as four inches of water and allows great flexibility concerning fluctuations in the level of the river.
But as Shell acknowledged, the innovation, which is in widespread use elsewhere, has caused some reservations in the Department of Natural Resources and among the grant commission.
“The floating launch extends into the river and the appropriate agencies are a little concerned about that because it is new. But it only extends about forty feet out and the river is 110 feet wide at that point. So I’m pretty sure we’ll get that worked out,” said Shell.
The park is intended to anchor the northern end of an eventual 48 mile river corridor extending to the Abbeville area. The ADA compliant corridor would include a number of takeout points, including some in the Piedmont area. The grant currently being sought is for $100,000. A separate transportation grant is being sought to address other issues, such as the abandoned bridge near the park.
Councilman Ken Waters was on hand to discuss other matters, including the upcoming Saluda River kayak event on June 2 and 3, which will launch at Dolly Cooper Park.
“We need volunteers to help with that event. We really need to begin taking ownership of this event, because it is really growing. We had people come all the way from Atlanta last year.”
Waters also stressed that the growth of the event between the first and second year was tremendous and he expects a similar increase this year. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a thousand people here this year.”
Waters stressed the connection between quality of life and recreational opportunities and economic development.